We all need a little calming every now and then, and it is likely that in the midst of the pandemic many of us will be feeling the strain.
BBC Two’s Gardeners’ World’s mild-toned presenter Monty Don has a simple suggestion.
He wants us to look up, look outside, and put our phones down.
“I live in the middle of the country, but whenever I’m in a city, what I notice the most – and that shocks me the most – is the number of people walking with headphones and looking at a phone,” he says. he. BBC News.
“They don’t notice a thing at all – the weather, the sky, any other noise. And that must be bad for you. It must be.
“I think the big lesson is to open up, to pay attention to what’s really going on.”
Don, who has been broadcasting and writing about gardens since the 1980s, believes that we are “separating ourselves from nature”.
“We would see these fabulous programs on television, showing the plight of the snow leopard or the melting of glaciers.
“And because they’re so good and so interesting, it becomes fixed – it becomes something happening elsewhere.
“What I want to emphasize is that the wildlife, nature and environment are here, on your back door, now – in front of your window.”
Don’s latest book, My Garden World, is a tribute to the Herefordshire countryside on his doorstep and farmhouse on the Welsh border. He writes about his changing environment month after month, from spiders to sparrows, worms to wood sorrel.
Written in the present tense, it is a conscious journey through the beauty of its surroundings, interspersed with nuggets of information. You learn that the grass snakes’ survival technique is to give off a disgusting smell rather than attacking you, which is kind of a blessing.
He thinks it’s important to learn more about nature, saying, “One of our modern ills is that knowledge is so accessible that we tend to have a little learning and not a lot of depth. .
“What took a long time to write this book was the research. So I was going to read a book about voles or read a couple of books on migration. I thought if I understood it, the reader would understand. “
But if we follow his advice for putting our phones down, going out, and sniffing the air, what is that going to do for us?
For Don, it’s about the feeling of well-being that comes from connecting with nature.
His journey with depression is well documented and he tends to find it more difficult as the daylight recedes.
“I have suffered from depression for many years, which comes and goes but tends to be worse in winter,” he explains.
“And, touch wood, it’s been a lot better in recent years.” But for me, the blessings of nature all relate to the physical connection with the rhythm of the natural world.
“Part of that rhythm is dark – winter is cold. And yet, even though inside you are dark, gray and cold, if you believe that spring will bloom inside you, as well as outside in the garden, it is powerful.
“So that’s how it works for me.”
However, not everyone has a garden, which Don quickly recognizes.
“I think the last figure I saw is that 83% of Britons have or have access to a garden. But that actually means millions don’t. And so that’s a lot, but the vast majority do. “
For anyone unable to access their own little patch of greenery, Don says just looking out the window.
“We all have windows, and the sky is fascinating, both part of the garden and the ground. So notice what birds are in the sky. Also be curious, name them, find out. It’s not difficult,” says -he. .
“The more you discover, the more you realize there is to know. And then it becomes fascinating. And then you start to search and then you start to recognize.
He also suggests exploring the local streets and parks, saying, “For some it’s easier than for others. But our streets have trees in them, you don’t have to go to the corners. most remote places in the world to engage in the natural world. “
The pets of many people, especially dogs, put them in contact with nature, for walks or in their backyard.
Nigel, Don’s beloved dog, known to millions of BBC Two’s Gardeners’ World viewers for his appearances on the show, sadly passed away earlier this year.
- Monty Don reveals golden retriever Nigel is dead
He’s optimistic about his loss, saying it’s important to “allow yourself to cry and not be ashamed of it, you know, they’re loved.”
“A pet is part of your family, so a member of your family has passed away,” he says.
He adds that since a dog’s lifespan is usually between 9 and 14 years, “in Nigel’s case he had a long and beautiful life.”
“So allow yourself to feel sad, but at the same time rejoice. You had this great relationship. It made you richer and it will never go away, no one can take it from you.
During the lockdown, some people spent significantly more time not only with their pets, family or roommates, but also with nature, during their allotted time to exercise outdoors.
Many commented on how much they noticed the birdsong.
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“One of the side effects of the pandemic, which was very noticeable in my own backyard, was for the first time that you could really hear the birds – there were no planes or cars. And for a few months it was quiet. And it was extraordinary, ”he says.
“It was an unexpected ray of hope for what was an extremely stressful time for everyone.”
Lockdown has also brought many people together, from cheering for the NHS, helping each other with food parcels or family zoom sessions.
Gardeners’ World was no exception, and more than 10,000 people have posted videos of themselves in their gardens, hoping to be included on the show.
Why is this slot machine so popular?
“Well, we all love seeing other people’s lives. In Britain the back gardens are fiercely private, or we would like them to be – sometimes they are forgotten of course,” he says.
“But we are a nation of gardeners, and our gardens are our castles. So being invited to someone’s garden is an act of hospitality. It’s a pretty intimate thing to do. But it’s a pretty thing. generous to do. And so immediately you will feel welcome and privileged. ”
He says videos are always’ positive stories’ and adds, ‘I think these short little films, no longer than two minutes, are just touches of life, flashing a torch and being bright.
“And maybe people say, ‘I feel these things too,’ and that’s a shared humanity. And it’s that feeling that we all yearn for, that basically people are good and decent and doing their best. And we are all in the same boat.
“And that’s how we get away with it.”
My Garden World by Monty Don is published by Two Roads and is out now.